NFL's $1 Billion Concussion Settlement Upheld By Appeals Court

The 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has affirmed an agreement in a class action against the NFL settling concussion claims by thousands of retired NFL players. The settlement calls for payments of up to $5 million to former players diagnosed with certain neurological disorders, but it does not cover claims for chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The settlement was approved by the U.S. District Court trial judge in 2015. The total payout by the NFL is estimated at $1 billion.

The retired players who appealed the trial court’s approval of the settlement argued that the settlement was flawed because it did not cover chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive, degenerative brain disease found in athletes and others who have a history of repeated brain trauma. A number of retired NFL players have developed CTE. The CTE issue picked up some heat after an NFL official admitted last month that there is definitely a link between football and CTE.

The settlement is a good thing for many players because the settlement puts an end to the litigation. Had the case gone to trial and turned out favorably for the players, there would be long delays in getting the money to the players. With the case settled, payments to players can proceed, and for many retired players, getting the money now is an important issue. The downside of the settlement, from the perspective of the players, is that the NFL has essentially tied off its liability, and at a fixed price that is modest when compared to NFL revenues. And, of course, the settlement does not cover CTE, a serious problem for many retired players.

The settlement will pay on average about $190,000 to retired players, and the amount per player could be as much as $5 million. The settlement includes payments up to $4 million for prior deaths involving CTE prior to an April, 2015 cutoff date.

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